Great Ocean Food: Local knowledge
It never ceases to amaze me how important childhood summer holidays are in people’s lives.
My personal “unsubstantiated by nothing” theory is that as we grow older, we lose touch with the natural world. How many times as an adult have you discovered tadpoles, seen worms and beetles up close or grazed your knee? As a child, these were weekly occurrences, so too the exploration of one’s immediate physical realm. I think this youthful discovery plays an important role in shaping tastes and preferences in later life. These adventures often took place during summer holidays, so it is unsurprising we form strong attachments where we had unabandoned freedom.
I thought about this when talking recently with a former work colleague of mine, Ann Houlihan who is the owner of the local craft gin company, Great Ocean Road Gin. She articulated several cogent motivations for setting up a gin distillery far from her corporate life in Melbourne; but I sensed her underlying reason was to live in a place dear to her heart. Fortunately for us, this happens to be the Great Ocean Road. She has spent weekends and vacations here since the age of five and in 2017 took the plunge by resigning from a management position in Melbourne to move with her family to Anglesea.
I first met Ann in my role as a caterer to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. She and I collaborated on the festival’s flagship event, “The World’s Longest Lunch” Ann continued to accumulate skills and knowledge of the food and beverage industry in many varied roles. She is ideally suited to producing a craft gin with a nostalgic nod to her favourite place in the world.
The gin is all about showcasing the region and working with regional farms and producers. Ann has consulted Nick Day from Otways Indigenous Nursery who propagates native plants from Torquay to Cape Otway. Nick initially sourced indigenous local botanicals and now Ann grows many of the species herself. Local honey and raspberries are also sourced and used in production. The names of the gins have personal meanings to Ann. The first produced was affectionately called Guvvos after a popular local surf beach near Point Roadknight where her daughter loves to surf.
Matt Preston’s trifle
1.5kg pitted cherries (fresh or frozen) and 500g fresh cherries
460g caster sugar
2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon juniper berries, lightly crushed
20g gelatine leaves
250ml Great Ocean Road “Guvvos” gin, plus 2 tbs extra
Juice of 2 lemons, strained
500ml full-cream milk
500ml thickened cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Half teaspoon ground mixed spice
10 egg yolks
35g corn flour
320g lemon curd
450g panettone, crusts removed,
sliced into 1cm-thick slices
125ml elderflower cordial
500ml double cream
Place cherries, 200g sugar, coriander seeds, juniper berries and 600ml water in a pan. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, soak gelatine in cold water to soften. Pass cherry mixture through a fine sieve into a large jug, gently pressing cherries to release juice (discard solids). Measure 1 litre of liquid for jelly, reserving remaining separately. Squeeze excess water from gelatine, add to hot cherry liquid and stir until dissolved. Stir in gin and lemon juice. Pour into a 3.5-litre trifle dish. Chill for two hours to set. To make custard, place milk, thickened cream, vanilla and mixed spice in a heavy-based pan over medium heat and, stirring occasionally, bring to just below boiling point. Remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks, cornflour and 110g sugar until thick and pale. Whisking continuously, slowly pour cream mixture into egg mixture. Return mixture to the pan and whisk over medium-low heat for three minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a stand mixer and whisk on medium for fifteen minutes or until cool. Cover and chill. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place hazelnuts, 75g sugar and 80ml water in a saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring continuously, for 8-10 minutes until sugar crystallises. Pour onto tray, cool, then roughly chop. Spread curd on one side of each slice of panettone and sandwich slices together curd-side in. Cut each into six squares. Place reserved cherry liquid, extra gin, 60ml cordial and remaining 75g caster sugar in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and cook for five minutes or until reduced by half. Place fresh cherries in a bowl, pour hot liquid on top and chill until completely cool. Beat double cream and remaining cordial in a stand mixer to soft peaks. To assemble, pour chilled custard over jelly. Scatter panettone over and spoon cherries and syrup on top. Finish with elderflower cream, then scatter with frosted hazelnuts.